Weather: Sunny intervals, light breeze
Observers: Carrie, Hannah, Ian, Janetta, Kaj, Kaye, Linda, Lindsey, Richard
After a discussion with Jonathan, the Volunteer Co-ordinator, about the involvement of the group in more systematic studies of the wildlife, we split into two teams. Some of us went with Richard, to observe and participate in his detailed studies of invertebrates on the site, the rest of us to initially check that Richard’s work would not disturb any breeding birds, and then to do our usual walk round, observing and recording what we saw.
Birds: Before the group assembled, Kaye and Ian independently had a look round the reserve. Kaye went to two locations where we knew that Whitethroats frequented last Spring, but still failed to find any. They really are late this year, although we know that some have been turning up in the York area. Ian spent nearly an hour watching two Wrens carrying nesting material into a low patch of vegetation South-East of the Environment Centre. He also thought that it was likely that both Blackcaps and Long-tailed Tits were nesting in the same area – and possibly a pair of Robins.
The birdwatching party, having given the OK to Richard’s invertebrates work (no breeding birds in his study area), spent a little time trying in vain to find Kingfishers on Tang Hall Beck. In fact, a few likely species were missing, such as the Willow Warbler (just the one) which has been singing East of the Centre, and, surprisingly, no sightings or sounds of Bullfinches.
A few people in both groups saw a Sparrowhawk circling over the reserve, climbing steadily. Singing birds noted included Song Thrush, Dunnock, and Greenfinch (call that singing?!). A few Starlings were hawking insects over the reserve. There were only a few sightings of Blue and Great Tits – maybe they are brooding young or sitting on eggs, which would reduce the number of birds out and about.
Plants: Botany was sadly neglected this week. However, nobody could fail to notice the continuing Dandelions, Daisies (all over the play area till the mowers came out), Garlic Mustard and White Dead Nettle. Cowslips and Primroses are lasting well, and more Hawthorn is coming out. One new find was a single specimen of Ramsons (Wild Garlic). Near the Story Circle, a Wild Rose, probably Dog Rose, has three or four open flowers, and one Vetch sp had coloured buds. If the warmer weather continues, expect a sudden spurt of early summer flowers. The rangers are having to undertake path maintenance – if they didn’t regularly scythe a couple of feet on either side, it wouldn’t be long before there were no paths left. It’s sad to see interesting plants cut back, but in the longer term it improves the habitat by allowing smaller wayside flowers to thrive.
Mammals: Just one sighting of Grey Squirrel.
Amphibians: In the Environment Centre pond, at least fifteen Smooth Newts could be counted at a time.
Insects: Four species of butterfly were identified and recorded: Speckled Wood, Small White, Orange Tip and Brimstone. A “blue” sp. was seen several times, but not well enough to determine whether it was “Common” or “Holly”. Common Carder and Garden Bumblebee were seen
Other Invertebrates: At least forty species of invertebrate were discovered over the 20m transect! In areas of developed vegetation, with heavy leaf litter and wood detritus, four species of woodlice (incl. 67 individual Common Shiny Woodlice) and two species of millipedes were busy decomposing the detritus. Centipedes, beetles and spiders patrolled the area maintaining the populations of flies, springtails and larvae.
There have, as yet, been no groundbreaking discoveries of rare species but the populations and diversity of the invertebrates are very positive and reflect healthy, developing vegetation and a maturing reserve. There are more unusual species of invertebrate on site; ladybirds, butterflies and others, so if anything is spotted please let us know.